Money for flood victims in Allenstown surprising

MERRIMACK – Allenstown’s successful bid to get federal money for flood-prone home buyouts caught some folks in Merrimack by surprise.

“Oh, wow,” Beacon Drive resident Leo Duval said Monday, in response to news that Allenstown, badly damaged in floods during the past two years, received a $2.1 million grant from the federal government.

The money, in combination with local dollars and grants, will be used to buy up and tear down 14 homes on the Suncook River, leaving just open space.

Duval and nine other Beacon Drive families applied for similar help this year after the Souhegan River flooded their homes, devastating basements and lower-living levels. Merrimack’s application for buyout money was denied in late July, partly, officials said, because it was missing some information.

But Allenstown’s award also comes from a different pot of federal dollars than the one Merrimack applied for, said Richard Verville, of the state Homeland Security Bureau.

Merrimack families sought a buyout from the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s “pre-disaster mitigation assistance program,” which Verville said is highly competitive because a limited amount of money is open to all states.

Allenstown families applied for FEMA’s “flood mitigation assistance program.” To be eligible, every property in the application has to be insured through the National Flood Insurance Program. A smaller amount of money is available there, Verville said, but the number of applicants is also smaller.

Allenstown is one of few communities to file successful buyout applications as of late.

Alstead applied after the Mother’s Day floods of 2005, in which several people died and houses were washed into the next town. The town was denied because its materials were thrown together, but the state government ended up agreeing to a one-time buyout.

Last year, Salem applied and was denied, and earlier this year, so was Goffstown. The town of Raymond had considered filing but never did, Verville said.

Merrimack was informed late this summer that its application lacked first-floor elevations, though town officials thought they had been included.

Town Manager Keith Hickey could not be reached by phone Monday afternoon, but he has said the town will reapply for the federal buyout program.

Duval said he’s frustrated at not having heard from the town about the initial denial or next steps.

“You would think if there’s a death in the family, you call the ones that are affected first,” Duval said. “In this case, we would be the immediate family, and the (town) council representatives should be trying to keep us informed.”